7 remembered at MO Law Enforcement Memorial ceremony

7 remembered at MO Law Enforcement Memorial ceremony
(Source: Missouri Department of Public Safety)
(Source: Missouri Department of Public Safety)

MISSOURI (KFVS) - A Missouri police officer, sheriff's deputy and a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper who lost their lives in the line of duty during 2015 were remembered on Saturday, May 7.

The ceremony at the Missouri Law Enforcement Memorial on the grounds of the State Capitol.

Four other officers, who were killed in the line of duty from 1908 to 1935, were also remembered.

Law enforcement families, friends and officers from around the state gathered at the memorial overlooking the Missouri River as the names of Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department Sgt. Peggy M. Vassallo, Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper James M. Bava, and Harrison County Sheriff's Department Deputy Steven "Brett" Hawkins, all of whom died in 2015, were added to the memorial's Wall of Honor during the 29th annual Missouri Law Enforcement Memorial Service. Lakeshire Police Department Officer Ronald E. Strittmatter, 67, who died of a heart attack on Jan. 3, 2015 following his shift, will be honored in 2017.

The names of four others who were killed in the line of duty in the last century were also added to the Wall of Honor: St. Louis Terminal Railroad Police Department Sgt. Arlo F. Smith, St. Louis Terminal Railroad Police Department Special Agent Bernard H. Menker, Jackson County Sheriff's Department Deputy Louis Anthony Olivero and Jackson County Deputy Marshal James C. Gallagher.

"Missouri law enforcement officers share an uncommon, noble bond: a willingness to put service above self, to run toward danger, and to lay down their lives to protect others," Gov. Jay Nixon said. "These brave men and women deserve our respect and gratitude, and when one falls, it is our duty to comfort and support their families and loved ones."

"We must do more than pay tribute to the brave police officers who fall in the line of duty protecting us," Attorney General Chris Koster said. "We need to thank all of the officers who selflessly serve as protectors of peace. They should know they have our support and appreciation each day as they patrol isolated highways and dangerous streets alone to keep society safe."

"In Missouri and around the nation, we should see more than the officers' uniform; we should understand the commitment that the most courageous of our neighbors – those who wear the uniform and the badge – make to keep all of us safe," Department of Public Safety Director Lane Roberts said. "On a daily basis, I hear stories of police officers risking their lives to protect children from drugs and abuse, the elderly and vulnerable from predators, and all of us from threats to the peace and security of our communities."

Each year, the families of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty in the previous year, and through the decades, participate in the ceremony by placing white carnations in a wreath in honor of Missouri's fallen heroes. Officers from agencies that have lost officers place wreaths at the memorial as the department names are read aloud.

On Friday, May 6, a candlelight vigil was held at the memorial in remembrance of all Missouri law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The following law enforcement officer's names were added to the memorial wall this year:

Peggy M. Vassallo
End of Watch: Aug. 24, 2015
Rank: Sergeant
Department: Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department
Cause: Struck by vehicle
Age: 53
Years of Service: 15 years with Bellefontaine Neighbors, 29 years of total law enforcement service
On Aug. 24, 2015, Sgt. Vassallo was killed after being struck by a vehicle in north St. Louis County as she checked on a driver following a minor traffic accident Sgt. Vassallo had been involved in.

James M. Bava
End of Watch: Aug. 28, 2015
Rank: Trooper
Department: Missouri State Highway Patrol
Cause: Traffic crash
Age: 25
Years of Service: 2 years and 2 months
On Aug. 28, 2015, Trooper Bava was killed in a one-vehicle crash in Audrain County after attempting to make a traffic stop of a motorcyclist for traffic violations.

Steven "Brett" Hawkins
End of Watch: Sept. 13, 2015
Rank: Deputy
Department: Harrison County Sheriff's Department
Cause: Heart attack
Age: 34
Years of Service: 3 years with the Harrison County, 11 years of total law enforcement service
On Sept. 13, 2015, Deputy Hawkins suffered a fatal heart attack several hours after responding to a residence for a call for a frantic subject, which led to a police search of a wide area.

Arlo F. Smith
End of Watch: Sept. 9, 1935
Rank: Sergeant
Department: Terminal Railroad Police Department, St. Louis
Cause: Gun shot
Age: 30
Years of Service: 2 years with Terminal Railroad Police Department
On Sept. 9, 1935, Sgt. Smith was patrolling railyards in East St. Louis, Ill. when he was mistaken for a robber and was shot and killed by a special agent for the Illinois Central Railroad.

Bernard H. Menker
End of Watch: Feb. 14, 1930
Rank: Special Agent
Department: Terminal Railroad Police Department, St. Louis
Cause: Gun shot
Age: 45
Years of Service: 12 years
On Feb. 14, 1930, Special Agent Menker was shot and killed by a trespasser he had stopped to question in a St. Louis railyard. The man shot Special Agent Menker in the chest, but Menker was able to return fire and fatally shoot the trespasser before Menker died of his wound.

Louis Anthony Olivero
End of Watch: Nov. 29, 1930
Rank: Deputy
Department: Jackson County Sheriff's Department
Cause: Gun shot
Age: 45
Years of Service: 20
On Nov. 29, 1930, Deputy Olivero was ambushed, shot and killed outside his home. Deputy Olivero had spent much of his career involved in special investigations and had been targeted with death threats and attempts on his life, including being shot at numerous times and an attempt to burn down his house.

James C. Gallagher
End of Watch: Jan. 6, 1908
Rank: Deputy Marshal
Department: Jackson County
Cause: Gun shot
Age: 43
Years of Service: 13
In 1895, as Deputy Marshal Gallagher and two other officers were attempting to serve warrants to two burglary suspects, one of the men shot Gallagher in the chest. Gallagher spent more than a year recovering, but the bullet was never removed. He rejoined the department in 1897. In 1903, he contracted a cold, which permanently affected his lungs, where the bullet remained. In 1908, he succumbed to his injuries.

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